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But because it's illegal at a federal level, universities that conduct crop research and provide technical assistance to farmers won't touch it. "Although hemp contains only trace amounts of the main hallucinogen found in marijuana, the federal Controlled Substances Act nonetheless defines the entire species as a Schedule I controlled substance," Colorado State University deputy general counsel Jason Johnson says in a statement. "Accordingly, the University is prohibited from providing assistance about hemp production."

Those issues have caused the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union to be hesitant about hemp. "We have enough things to worry about that having a confrontation with the federal government about hemp laws is something our members are not terribly interested in," says Mick McCallister, director of communications for the coalition of family farmers and ranchers.

At least one farmer has decided to forge ahead anyway. Mike Bowman is a 53-year-old farmer-turned-political-activist whose great-great-grandfather homesteaded in Phillips County. Today his family grows corn, wheat and a rotation of niche crops such as sunflowers, shallots and organic alfalfa on land they own in the eastern Colorado city of Wray.

Bowman became obsessed with hemp after reading about North Dakota's long-running fight to grow the crop, among other factors. He met Parker in 2006, when she was referred to him by the Colorado Department of Agriculture; she had called to ask about hemp farming.

"We just clicked," Bowman says. "We said, 'Let's start working on this.'"

Bowman was already involved in politics, having campaigned for Amendment 37, which requires 10 percent of Colorado's retail electricity sales to come from renewable sources by 2015. What was supposed to be a six-month sabbatical from the farm led to Bowman's helping found a national renewable-energy alliance; he now spends much of his time in Washington, D.C., and the rest traveling the country. The farm is still his home base, however.

And he intends to plant one hundred acres of hemp there — hopefully on April 30, the eightieth birthday of longtime hempster Willie Nelson, whom Bowman knows through their shared advocacy for biodiesel and other environmental causes. Bowman is in the process of requesting a permit from the USDA to import hemp seeds, but, he says, it's been a bureaucratic nightmare. "Nobody wants to make the decision," he says. "Everybody thinks it's somebody else's issue."

Bowman sees his planned hemp plot as a type of non-violent resistance. "It's gotta start somewhere. Somebody's got to plant something," he says. "Every time we've had to change something in history that is so wrong — whether it's the civil-rights movement or fill-in-the-blank — it's always taken some acts of civil disobedience from the citizenry."

He's not terribly afraid of being busted by the feds or state law enforcement, partly because he hopes Schwartz's hemp-farming regulation bill will have passed by then. "We're obviously in a gray area here," he admits. But "there's a lot of problems to address here as a nation, and clearly, this isn't a high priority for anybody."

His foray into hemp farming started out as an experiment to provide data about how the crop grows in Colorado. "In a sane world, we would have been testing different strains of this crop under limited irrigation and drought scenarios," he says. But since he's gone public with his plan, Bowman says, he's been approached by a handful of people in the U.S. hemp-products industry who are interested in buying his plants, though he hasn't signed any agreements yet.

The hemp will serve another practical purpose, too: last year, his family farm over-pumped its water allocation due to drought conditions, so it will have to use less water this year. Bowman hopes hemp, which reportedly needs little irrigation, will help them to do so.

"What we want to do is be able to demonstrate that there is an alternative crop out there," he says. "We live in a world where industrial hemp is a Schedule I narcotic and ketchup is considered a vegetable because of what happens inside the bubble of Washington.

Sometimes it takes outsiders and those committed to seeing things change for the better."

************

Late last year, Parker, Hunter and Lauve banded together in a more official way to run the phytoremediation study. They formed an organization called Hemp Cleans, which has since expanded its purpose into helping launch a hemp industry in Colorado. Their roles are perfectly fitted to their personalities: Parker the saleswoman is the director of public affairs, Hunter the scientist is in charge of research and development, and Lauve is the executive director.

Hemp Cleans doesn't have a budget, but the group has been approached by individuals and companies interested in investing. They also have a volunteer lobbyist named Samantha Walsh and support from businessman Adam Dunn, who serves on the seven-member committee overseeing the phytoremediation study and owns the Hemp HoodLab, a creative space and retail store in the River North neighborhood where he sells hemp clothing made by Hemp HoodLamb, one of three companies that he helped create in Amsterdam before moving to Denver in 2010.

Walsh and Dunn are helping to organize a monthly networking event at the HoodLab called "Hands on Hemp." The first gathering, held in early February, included reggae music, cans of PBR, a hemp paper-making demonstration and a brief legislative update from Walsh.

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14 comments
wethepeople65
wethepeople65

The original US flag :hemp fabric.The Constitution :printed on hemp paper, textiles needed to help win WW2;also hemp.

rsteeb
rsteeb

Washington specified "INDIAN hemp"-- do you know what that is?  Look up W.B. O'Shaughnessy and learn.  Low-THC, my eye!

patricia.calhoun
patricia.calhoun moderator editor

I'd love to publish some of these comments in our print Letters to the Editor section -- ideally with the author's full name. if that's okay, e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com.

rebeldor
rebeldor

Yet another reason I am proud of my write-in vote for Ron Paul, with Gary Johnson as his VP.  Sure better than the two drug warriors for whom the 50% of the country who even bothered voted.

brianstripling
brianstripling

I once wrote a paper in college about hemp and I gave a speech about it too. This was back in the early 1990's and i got bad grades for content even when the assignment was to write about anything. I put a lot of work into the paper but now after 20 years I feel vindicated but I never graduated from college because they really were not looking for people who thought or wanted to think outside of the box.  I would love to get into the hemp industry . I live in an agricultural community in Texas and I think its ridiculous that we dont grow hemp. Especially when people are on government assistance and out of work.  What a waist in so many ways. 

hemp1
hemp1

Colorado has a chance to be a national leader in the new movement.  Hemp could do great things for our state.  www.coloradohempcompany.com

Dave Adams
Dave Adams

Probably not most American's are ignorant fools when it comes to hemp.

Hempstress
Hempstress

Dannnng Westword got me doing the quadruple posts...ooops

Hempstress
Hempstress

If anyone is interested in moving this historic hemp legislation through in Colorado, please donate to Hemp Cleans at www.hempcleans.com We will be hosting Colorado's first HEMP LOBBY DAY at the Capitol on MARCH 20th. We will have amazing hemp businesses like Evo Hemp, Envirotextiles, Dixie Elixers, THC Magazine, HIA/Vote Hemp, Hemp Hoodlamb, JR carpentry and Johnny Hempseed, of course DR. BRONNERS and many, many more supporting the bill and educating the public on how hemp is wonderful and growing industry that needs to be allowed to fully flourish and operate in a free market. At the end of the day this is about our economic FREEDOM.

In the meantime, you can also check out HIA's website where they have a petition to lobby our Congressman and Senators on a national level to pass HB 255 the Industrial Hemp Farming Act.

IndustrialHemp
IndustrialHemp

...Industrial hemp right now is a political football with the Democrats of Kentucky holding back on endorsing the plant for agriculture. Seems the Dems aren't getting their slice of the pie.

Kudos to Senators Rand paul and Mitch McConnell for their foresight in ending the over 80 years of lies regarding hemp and shame on the Democrats of Kentucky who could care less about the farmers in their State. They will be remembered come election time...

HB420
HB420

Cannabis and hemp are the exact same plant botanically speaking.  The only difference is one variety has been bred to produce high levels of THC and other cannabinoids and one was bred to produce copious amounts of fiber.  Marijuana is a slang word that needs to be dropped from the lexicon along with "pot" and "stoner"

kevin_hunt
kevin_hunt

@rsteeb Many historical references allude to the medicinal properties of 'Indian Hemp'.

 
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